Tag Archives: pesticides

Proposed rule for pesticide spraying near schools revised by state agency

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The state Department of Pesticide Regulation on Thursday issued a revised proposed regulation on spraying pesticides near schools, changing an earlier version to provide farmers more leeway in reporting the spraying to school officials.

Despite that change, the proposed regulation remained largely the same as that issued in September and fundamentally bans pesticide applications within a quarter-mile of schools and day care centers on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The rule has been heavily lobbied on both sides. Agricultural interests complained that it was regulatory overreach that wasn’t backed up by available science. Environmental advocacy groups argued it did not do enough to protect children and did not contain sufficient provisions for enforcement. About 500 comment letters have been filed on the plan.

Under the original proposal, farmers would have been required to notify school officials and the county agricultural commissioners of pesticide sprays made within that quarter-mile area 48 hours before they occur.

The revised rule would only require them to provide an annual notification of pesticides that they expect will be applied near the school zones. The grower must describe the pesticides likely to be used, their names and active ingredients as well as a map showing the acreage and its proximity to the school.

Read more at: Proposed rule for pesticide spraying near schools revised by state agency | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Can marijuana ever be environmentally friendly?

Natasha Geiling, THINK PROGRESS (from April 20, 2016)

Another big issue that the burgeoning cannabis industry will have to confront as legalization becomes increasingly widespread is the industry’s massive environmental footprint. Cannabis is the country’s most energy-intensive crop, largely because around a third of cannabis cultivation in the United States currently takes place in indoor warehouses, a process that requires huge amounts of lighting, ventilation, cooling, and dehumidifying. According to a 2016 report released by New Frontier Financials, cannabis cultivation annually consumes one percent of the United States’ total electrical output, which for a single industry growing a single crop, is a lot — roughly the equivalent of the electricity used by 1.7 million homes. If energy consumption continues at current levels, the electricity used by indoor cannabis operations in the Northwest alone will double in the next 20 years.

One of the first things that Tyson Haworth does when we meet on his farm in rural Oregon is spread his palms out, up toward the April sunshine, and apologize. “I just applied some predatory fungus in the greenhouse,” he says, splaying his fingers and inspecting his hands. He doesn’t use any synthetic pesticides on his farm, he explains, preferring predatory bugs and bacteria and fungi instead, and before he can show me around, he excuses himself to wash his hands in his house adjacent to the farm. Between the farm and the house, on the other side of the gravel driveway that leads visitors from the winding back roads onto Haworth’s property, is a wooden play structure — a sign of Haworth’s two kids, who are the reason he moved from Portland, about thirty miles north, to Canby.

Them, and because it was getting hard to keep growing his cannabis in a garage.

Haworth started cultivating cannabis in 2007, after his wife had to undergo a second back operation. The first time around, she took opiates to manage the pain, but she didn’t want to do that again. So Haworth — who grew up around his father’s wholesale produce company and worked as a manager of a wholesale organic distribution company himself — started growing cannabis, medically, both for his wife and for Oregon’s decades-old medical market. For years, Haworth cultivated cannabis on the side, not able to make enough profits from the medical market to become a full-time cannabis grower. Then, in 2013, Oregon’s medical marijuana market shifted, allowing, for the first time, a legitimate retail component.

And so Haworth put his organic produce job on hold and jumped feet first into cannabis cultivation, moving SoFresh Farms to Canby in 2014. But he didn’t want to completely eschew the decades of knowledge he had gained working in the organic produce industry. And so Haworth decided to do something that not many cannabis farmers were doing at the time: create an organic, sustainable cannabis farm, a place without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, a place that sequesters carbon and helps repopulate native flora. A place that grows cannabis and leaves the environment better for it.

“It’s not enough to not be bad,” Haworth said. “We want to be good. It’s not enough to not be part of the problem, we want to be part of the solution.”

Read more at: Can Marijuana Ever Be Environmentally Friendly?

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Sustainable Living, Water

Many 2016 Emerald Cup winners disqualified for pesticides 

Julie Johnson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Emerald Cup has brought an audience of tens of thousands to the Sonoma County fairgrounds each of the last four years, and the contest’s environmental focus sets it apart from other cannabis competitions.

But this year, pesticides upended many of the winners of the three-day marijuana festival in December known for its focus on organic and sustainable outdoor farming.

About 25 percent of 263 samples in the concentrates categories submitted from producers across the state were disqualified, mostly because they tested positive for pesticides, according to the event’s official laboratory, Santa Cruz-based SC Labs.

The issue wasn’t uncovered until after the Dec. 11-13 contest due to a late crush of entries plus internal miscommunication about deadlines, said Emerald Cup founder Tim Blake. Blake said he was troubled by the discovery and has apologized to contestants.

“We were dumbfounded that we’d see this (pesticide use) at that level,” Blake said. “We’re going to have to be very careful about that in the future.”

Read more at: Many 2016 Emerald Cup winners disqualified for pesticides | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living

Sonoma County parents, farmers lobby state over pesticide 

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Lobbying groups have been making last-minute pitches to an obscure state agency on an issue that has ramifications throughout the state and particularly in Sonoma County: To what length should farmers go to protect schoolchildren from sprayed pesticides?

The state Department of Pesticide Regulation has proposed a rule that would ban pesticide applications within a quarter-mile of schools and day care centers on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Comments are due Friday and the department has received about 500 from various groups, said spokeswoman Charlotte Fadipe.

DPR Director Brian Leahy has said the proposal “builds in additional layers of protection for students and school staff that are located in agricultural areas” as well as ensures better communication.

Parents and anti-pesticide advocates tend to believe the proposal should crack down harder on spraying. Ag groups that include grape growers fear the regulation is overreach, not supported by science.

A study by the state Department of Public Health found 36 percent of 2,511 California schools surveyed in agricultural zones in 2010 had 144 “pesticides of public health concern” sprayed within a quarter mile. It did not determine whether children were actually exposed to such pesticides. The National Pesticide Information Center contends that infants and children are more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides than adults, and that parents should take steps to minimize their child’s exposure to them.

Spraying by aircraft, sprinklers, air-blast and all fumigant applications would be covered under the proposed rule. It also would prohibit most dust and powder pesticide applications including sulfur, which is a popular product used generously on Sonoma County farms to combat diseases such as powdery mildew on grapevines. A natural product, sulfur is allowable in organic farming.In 2014, out of the 2.2 million pounds of pesticides used in Sonoma County, 1.4 million pounds were sulfur, according to the department’s database.

The other main pesticides used in Sonoma County include those that come from petroleum (154,542 pounds), mineral oil (115,625 pounds) and various glyphosphates (94,152 pounds), an herbicide category that includes the weed killer known as Roundup, deemed safe by the EPA if used according to directions but criticized by some health groups.

Read more at: Sonoma County parents, farmers lobby state over pesticide | Sonoma Index-Tribune | Sonoma, CA

Filed under Sustainable Living

Doubts about the promised bounty of genetically modified crops

Danny Hakim, THE NEW YORK TIMES

The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat. But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise.

Read more at: Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops – NYTimes.com

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living

Tips, tricks to debugging your garden

Jeff Cox, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

If you discover that some kind of insect is damaging your garden, what should you do?The best thing you can do? Keep calm and carry on. The worst thing you can do? Spray your garden with insecticide. Here’s why.

First of all, a little insect damage is actually good for your crops, whether edible or ornamental. It stimulates growth hormones to repair damage and stimulates the plants to produce insect-repelling compounds.

But what if a pest is so numerous that it threatens to destroy your crop? That’s a signal you need to encourage more beneficial insects to live in your garden, the kind that eat pests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can invite them in by planting nectar and pollen-producing plants, especially ones with umbrella-shaped flower and seedheads, like fennel, dill, and carrot, even the wild carrots called queen anne’s lace.

Insect scientists also suggest leaving about 10 percent of your garden space planted in whatever happens to grow wild there (except blackberries and poison oak). This will be habitat for native pest-eating insects.

Pests are food for beneficial insects, so by spraying insecticide on your garden, you are wiping out the pests and the good guys. Pests, however, are designed by nature to be the first ones back into a garden that has been sprayed. After all, they eat plants, so the table is set.

Until pest populations build up, there’s not much for beneficials to eat, so they show up last. The result is that your pest problem will be worse than before.

Read more at: Tips, tricks to debugging your garden | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living, Wildlife

The EPA finally admits that the world’s most popular pesticide kills bees

Tom Philpott, MOTHER JONES

Bees are dying in record numbers—and now the government admits that an extremely common pesticide is at least partially to blame.

For more than a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has been under pressure from environmentalists and beekeepers to reconsider its approval of a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, based on a mounting body of research suggesting they harm bees and other pollinators at tiny doses. In a report released Wednesday, the EPA basically conceded the case.

The report card was so dire that the EPA “could potentially take action” to “restrict or limit the use” of the chemical by the end of this year.

Marketed by European chemical giants Syngenta and Bayer, neonics are the most widely used insecticides both in the United States and globally. In 2009, the agency commenced a long, slow process of reassessing them—not as a class, but rather one by one (there are five altogether). Meanwhile, tens of millions of acres of farmland are treated with neonics each year, and the health of US honeybee hives continues to be dismal.

The EPA’s long-awaited assessment focused on how one of the most prominent neonics—Bayer’s imidacloprid—affects bees. The report card was so dire that the EPA “could potentially take action” to “restrict or limit the use” of the chemical by the end of this year, an agency spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.

Read more at: The EPA Finally Admitted That the World’s Most Popular Pesticide Kills Bees—20 Years Too Late | Mother Jones

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Wildlife

Grape growers oppose new pesticide rules

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The California Association of Winegrape Growers has joined with more than 45 other agricultural groups to oppose new rules on the use of pesticides around schools.

The Department of Pesticide Regulation is gathering input on new requirements for pesticide use near school campuses, specifically looking at how to improve notification to schools and reduce the exposure risk by placing new restrictions on applications.

“When the facts are considered it is evident that clear, significant protections are in place to assure pesticides registered in California are used safely and effectively. DPR has historically deployed the best science to develop regulations governing pesticides in California,” the groups wrote in a July 31 letter. “It is also clear from follow up monitoring and evaluation performed by DPR that regulations are successful in protecting public health and the environment.”

The department in its notice said it was undergoing the rulemaking based on feedback from many stakeholder groups.

Source: Viticulture briefs | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living

California to impose environmental rules on North Coast marijuana farmers

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

North Coast water quality officials are poised to adopt first-of-their-kind regulations governing waste disposal, erosion, chemical use, riparian management and other water-related impacts of widespread cannabis cultivation.

The new rules, set for a vote Thursday by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board at a meeting in Santa Rosa, result from growing concern about environmental damage related to the booming marijuana industry, particularly fragile stream systems and wildlife habitats already degraded by drought.

But it also represents a grand experiment in bringing pot growers out of the dark and into the open, obliging them to operate under a regulatory framework that requires they report their activities and submit to site inspections.

“It’s a milestone,” said Matt St. John, the board’s executive officer. “It’s one of the top priorities for me as the executive officer and for my board members.”

Even Colorado and Washington, which have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and adopted rules for cultivation and consumption, do not have environmental regulations in place, he said.

The new rules include provisions designed to safeguard privacy and make the process more palatable to those who might have an ingrained distrust of public authority, including an allowance for many farmers to register through approved nongovernmental third-party organizations. Board staff have fielded inquiries from individuals and organizations interested in participating as third parties in the program.

Read more at: California to impose environmental rules on North Coast | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Water, Wildlife

OpEd: How “sustainable” is the wine industry?

Shepherd Bliss, THE SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

As someone who has studied, practiced, written about, and taught college students at Sonoma State and Dominican Universities about what “sustainable” really means, last week’s expensive, full-page Winegrowers ad, paid for by tax dollars, in the Press Democrat, Bohemian, Sonoma West, and elsewhere offended me. It is a blatant effort to hoodwink readers.

It offers no proof and no third party verification. The Winegrowers self-regulate, thus co-opting and green-washing the word, like fox guarding the chicken coop. To be “sustainable” requires having a triple bottom line: profit, environmental protection, and social justice.

The Wine Empire is certainly profitable, for a few. They convert redwood forests, oak woodlands, and apple orchards into regimented, industrial mono-crop rows, which is not nature’s way. They leave destruction in their path. They fence out wildlife, poison bees and other critters, and hoard water—not very environmental. Big Wine does not treat or pay its workers a living wage.

Their wine may be “world-class,” as they claim. Wall Street and foreign investors own most of it, so most money leaves the county. Multi-national alcohol corporations—like Altira, Brown-Forman, Constellation, and The Wine Group—own much of the wine production.

“The Myth of the Family Winery: Global Corporations Behind California Wine” by the Marin Institute documents this ownership. “Preserving local agriculture,” the ad claims. This study reveals how they preserve agri-business.

“Nearly all the leading wine producers in California are massive corporations integrated with ‘Big Alcohol,’ multinational conglomerates promoting and controlling politics in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,” the study opens.

Winegrowers received a 2014 $377,282 federal grant to fund their “branding campaign.” That followed a state grant that brought their total to $756,000. Tax dollars fund their ads.

“We’re growing a better place for us all to live, work, and play,” the ad claims. Meanwhile, they spray poisonous chemicals, without even informing neighbors. They crowd narrow, rural roads with tipsy drivers. The wine industry digs 1000-foot wells and takes as much water from streams as they want, even during the drought. Big Ag does not have to conserve, like the rest of us. There’s no teeth to what they describe as “sustainable.”

Big Wine does not follow the lax rules regulating it. For example, Napa County’s Wagners want their huge Dairyman Winery and Event Center in the fragile Laguna de Santa Rosa. They settled with Napa for $1 million for violating permits by bottling 20 times as much as they were allowed.

Napa Valley used to be America’s premier wine-growing area, but some of their vintners have been moving into Sonoma County recently, such as “bad apple” Paul Hobbs. The Watertrough Children’s Alliance has been fighting him after he broke laws to put in a vineyard in the Sebastopol countryside bordering on schools with over 500 children. Mendocino and Lake Counties risk colonization by the Wine Empire.

There’s no teeth to what they describe as “sustainable.” That’s why a growing chorus of neighbors are lifting their voices as individuals and in groups such as Preserve Rural Sonoma County, Napa Vision 2050, Four County Network, against the Wine Empire’s multiple abuses of the land, water, air, and people.

“Sustainable?” Not really.

Source: OpEd: How “Sustainable” Is the Wine Industry?

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable Living